The Rhys-Davies Extended Family Photo Shoot

Are you about to have a large family gathering and considering having an extended family photo shoot to celebrate and capture your time together? Or do you just really love the idea of having a photo shoot with as many generations present as possible? To have beautiful pictures of grandparents and grandchildren together? Mums and daughters? Fathers and sons?

This is exactly what a recent shoot of mine was about. It was planned to celebrate Dylan’s 4th birthday with four generations of family members who had come down from all over the country. The Rhys-Davies family were unbelievably chilled out and Mum was very well-organised and had thought everything through and planned it carefully to ensure the shoot went as smoothly as possible.

As you can imagine, having so many family members together for an extended family shoot could be chaos and hard work. Here are my top tips on how to include all family members and get the best from your shoot.

1) Allow plenty of time:

I like to allow 2-3 hours for a family shoot, but this is normally based on a smaller family. If there are quite a few of you (in this particular shoot there were 18 family members (14 adults and 4 children), it is advisable to allow extra time. This family shoot lasted nearly 4 hours and only finished because the children were exhausted! It is far better to have more time and be more relaxed, than rushed and stressed and potentially miss amazing opportunities and moments!

2) Plan your shoot time:

We all know that happy children = happy parents which means lovely photos. Nothing good is going to come from a shoot that coincides with nap time and nobody will be able to relax if they have to console an over-tired or grumpy baby (or adult for that matter)! So my advice would be plan your shoot time to make the most of all members of the party. Does somebody need to leave early to be back on the road heading home? Or maybe Nan needs to eat her dinner at a certain time? Does Mother-in-Law prefer to be up and about earlier in the day than later? All members of the party need to be considered and consulted when making such a large investment in everybody’s time.

3) Plan for group photos:

This shoot worked particularly well because Mum had already put in a lot of thought and emailed me a list of all the different family group photos that she wanted. There needs to be some degree of flexibility and freedom on both parts. If you know that you really want Great-Nana in a shot with all the Great-grandchildren, then you need to facilitate that and ensure that this is communicated. Likewise it is also good to allow for spontaneity and reactive shooting as different situations and opportunities present themselves (like throwing the children up in the air a million times until we have absolutely nailed the shot!?)

In my family we have a lot of silly family poses that started when my sister and I were young. It seems to have developed and evolved as we’ve grown up. This now includes all the children as well. If I were to book an extended family photo shoot, then I personally would want these poses to make an appearance!

4) Bring plenty of drinks and snacks:

As I said before, happy children = a much happier time for all! So one of my top tips is to ensure that there are plenty of drinks and snacks to hand, whether you are preparing for a picnic out or just allowing the children to graze and nibble throughout the shoot. Some locations may have facilities to get refreshments, but some may needed to be brought with you.

In longer shoots, I always like to offer rewards/treats to the children, but I’m pretty sure that a few jelly babies won’t keep them going for 4 hours! If they have sustenance, then they’re far more likely to keep going for longer and won’t end up hangry!

Plus it is definitely worth bearing in mind that while us adults like to sit and chill sometimes, children don’t stay still for long, so get hot and thirsty far quicker!

5) Plan the location carefully:

Sometimes the location can be absolutely key to a good shoot especially in the case of an extended family shoot. You need to have space for all family members to gather and chill out while they’re not being photographed. Somewhere that has space for little people to burn off energy. You need somewhere that is fun where the all the kids (young and old) can play and have their own little adventures. And you need to have somewhere that is picturesque in the background. This is no mean feat but I think we nailed it here. This shoot took place in Holly Hill and was perfect for all our criteria! Plus on top of that, it provided some much-needed shade on such a bright day!

6) Bring entertainment:

When I am shooting such large groups, there is undoubtedly times when some (or all) of the children are not needed. It is moments like this that could cause you worry or stress if it has not been thought out. This shoot was not like that at all though, as between us we had bubbles, more bubbles, balloons, party hats, giant inflatable footballs and logs to climb on. It could not be argued that those children were bored for one minute as there was so much for them to do. I don’t think anybody thought of it as a dull or boring photo shoot – it was like a lovely outing out with all the extended family, and I just happened to be there directing shots, handing out bubbles or giving out sweets!

7) Ensure everybody is prepared:

It’s worth giving everybody as much notice as possible. Unless you are the most organised person in the world, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to co-ordinate all outfit colours, so I wouldn’t worry too much! But it is definitely a good idea to let everybody know with as much advance notice as possible so they can think about what they would like to wear, what ‘stuff’ (toys, food etc) they need to bring and so they know to keep a large segment of time free.

8) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, have fun!

Photo shoots, whether they are small groups or extended groups, are not supposed to be a chore. They are in fact really good fun and a great way to spend some quality time with your loved ones. There is no need to feel self-conscious or worried – it should be a chance to relax and enjoy your family all being together.

The Rhys-Davies family had all been together for the weekend celebrating Dylan’s birthday, but I think these large get togethers are quite rare now as the family members are dotted all over the country and all lead very busy lives. So what better way to celebrate and capture your time together than with a few photos which will freeze that afternoon in time forever!

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